If you are reading this and you are currently in law school, then you already know 90% of what you need to know about writing a personal statement for the purpose of transferring law schools. So much of the structure and content of the essay that got you into your current law school stays the same for the transfer essay. The personal story is still there, along with your reasons for wanting to go to law school and, of course, to that law school in particular. The other 10% is just the slightly more delicate dance of addressing the transfer in a way that is authentic, positive, and diplomatic. Much like conducting a job search while you’re still employed elsewhere, there’s a bit of an art to expressing a preference for a different place without denigrating the place where you are.
Be Positive: Talk About What You’ve Gained From Your Current School
Addressing a transfer in an admissions statement will look different depending on why you’re transferring. Sometimes the reason for a transfer can be as straightforward as life events requiring a geographical change. Other times, the motivation can be a bit more complicated to explain; for example, if the first year law school just isn’t a good fit. Often students only start to contemplate transferring once they’ve received some pretty good grades and realize that such a thing would be possible. While every situation may call for a different tack, there is a universal approach that can benefit you under any circumstances: identify what you’re enjoying about your current law school experience, and then talk about how you can build on that experience in the new school.
My mom always used to tell me that “gratitude breeds abundance.” This can be a useful mantra when reflecting on your first year of law school in your personal statement. Yes, it can be difficult to positively spin what many consider to be the most challenging year. But if you’re looking to transfer, it means you’re sticking with law school for the time being and, therefore, you can write about what it is that’s keeping you going. So, instead of writing “I want to go to School B because School A sucks,” you want to strike more of an “I loved X about School A and want even more of X by doing this, this, and this at School B” kind of tone. Even if X is the only thing you loved about School A, that’s what you want to write about.
Particularly if you’re transferring in order to move up a few spots on Newsweek’s law school greatest hits list, the school you’re applying to may get the wrong impression of you as an applicant if you’re spending half of your page limit focusing on law school tiers. The school you hope to transfer to wants to know what kind of law student you are. And, unlike your first round of applications, they’re not going to have to guess based on abstract and arbitrary metrics like the LSAT. All they have to do is look at what kind of student you’ve been for the past year.
Be Proud of Yourself: Talk About How You’ve Engaged Positively With Your Current School (And How That’ll Carry Into Your Next School)
Remember, when you’re writing your transfer admissions statement, think about what has made you a valuable student at your current law school and what your current law school has offered to make that possible. If 1L’s are allowed to engage in clinics and you’ve been working with one, then talk about how great that opportunity was, and how you want to build on the experience at the clinics at the new school. If you built a relationship with a great professor at your current school based on shared interests, then you can write about the value of that relationship and your excitement about expanding your mentorship network by identifying professors at the new school who have also worked in your area of focus. If you took a leadership role in a campus student group, then you can highlight the work of the other school’s chapter or, if they don’t have one, propose starting one yourself.
Structuring the Essay
So where should this paragraph about your current law school be? While there’s no one way to structure a law school essay, for the sake of offering some guidance, let’s assume a general admissions essay structure that looks like this:
Personal narrative → Reasons for going to law school/pre-law school experiences and achievements → How this law school will help you reach those goals and how you will contribute to the law school community.
Adopting this same structure for your transfer essay, it will look something like this:
Personal narrative → Reasons for going to law school/pre-law school experiences and achievements → How your current law school has laid a foundation for you to reach these goals and how you contributed to your current law school community → How the next law school will help you reach those goals and how you will contribute to the law school community.
See? You’ve already got most of your transfer essay written. The only bit that’s left is an opportunity reflect on the year you’ve had, celebrate what went well, and look forward to what awaits you.
To learn more about transferring, and hear more details about my personal transfer experience, you can tune into the Law School Toolbox podcast or email me at email@example.com.
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